Dear Foreign and Commonwealth Office,

I would like to get some background on the role currently held by Andy Pryce (Head of Counter Disinformation).

Could you tell me please the scope of the role, the size of the team Andy Pryce has working with him, and when the role was created?

Yours faithfully,

Mike Robinson

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Dear Mr Robinson,

Thank you for your FOI request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. It has been assigned a unique reference number (above) and has been passed to the relevant section within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to deal with. They will be in touch with you should your request need clarification.

We received your request on 09 April 2018 and will aim to respond within 20 working days, following date of receipt.

Yours sincerely

Central FoI Unit
Foreign and Commonwealth Office

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Dear Foreign and Commonwealth Office,

Your reply to my request is now late. Could you please explain why and tell me when I can expect a reply.

Yours faithfully,

Mike Robinson

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

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Dear Mr Robinson,

 

Please find attached reply to your request 0380-18.

 

 

Regards

 

 

Central FOI Unit

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

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Mr Robinson,

 

Please find attached response to FOI 0380-18.

 

Regards,

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

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Dear Mr Robinson,

 

Please find attached reply to your FOI Request 0380-18.

 

 

Regards

 

Central FOI Unit

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

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Dear Foreign and Commonwealth Office,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

On 9 April 2018 I asked:
I would like to get some background on the role currently held by Andy Pryce (Head of Counter Disinformation). Could you tell me please the scope of the role, the size of the team Andy Pryce has working with him, and when the role was created?

On 9 May 2018 I wrote to you, indicating that your reply was late.

On 10 April 2018 you wrote:
“We received your request on 09 April 2018 . . . ”

On 11 May 2018 you wrote, in letter PIT 0380 18.pdf :
“Thank you for your request for information which we received on 09 April.”

Whilst you acknowledge that you must respond within 20 working days, it appears that you failed to do so, Bank Holiday notwithstanding.

Section 10 of the Freedom of Information Act states:
“(1)Subject to subsections (2) and (3), a public authority must comply with section 1(1) promptly and in any event not later than the twentieth working day following the date of receipt.”

In your letter of 11 May you wrote to the effect that you considered Section 27 - international relations - applies as an exemption, you had not decided on a response, and would reply by 6 June 2018. You did not identify which parts of the request were considered for exemption under Section 27, so, presumably, because no information at all had been provided, there was at least a tacit decision made by 11 May 2018 that no information was to be provided.

On 6 June 2018 you posted a reply on the web site. Attached was a letter saying that no information is to be provided. The letter abandons the exemption of Section 27 - international relations - and replaces the reason for the exemption as covered by Section 24 ( 1 ) - national security.

It is inappropriate to ‘move the goalposts’ during the processing of FoI requests.

Section 24 ( 1 ) states:
“(1)Information which does not fall within section 23(1) is exempt information if exemption from section 1(1)(b) is required for the purpose of safeguarding national security.”

In your letter of 10 April 2018 you wrote:
“I can confirm that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office does hold information falling within the terms of your request.”

Therefore, S24 ( 2 ) does not apply.
S24 ( 3 ) and S24 ( 4 ) are not applicable in any case.

Section 23 states:
“23 Information supplied by, or relating to, bodies dealing with security matters.
(1)Information held by a public authority is exempt information if it was directly or indirectly supplied to the public authority by, or relates to, any of the bodies specified in subsection (3).”
For the purposes of this Request for Review, the first four referenced organisations that appear to potentially apply are:
“(3)The bodies referred to in subsections (1) and (2) are—
(a)the Security Service,
(b)the Secret Intelligence Service,
(c)the Government Communications Headquarters,
(d)the special forces,”

On this basis, the only possible inference is that all information provided to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was from one of the four above organisations.

Sections 23(1) and 24(1) are mutually exclusive. Section 24(1) can only be applied to information that does not fall within section 23(1).

This is my formal Request for Review.

Because you have refused to provide any information you have claimed all the information is exempt under S24 ( 1 ).

This claim is irreconcilably inconsistent with the facts.

For example, there is information already placed in the public domain that provides some information pursuant to the FoI request.

For example, government documents relating to information pursuant to the FoI request have been posted on the Government web site.

Accordingly, the ubiquitous imposition of S24 ( 1 ) is untenable.

Given that subsequent to making the original FoI request relevant material was located on a Government web site, it is proposed that, as well as the breach of Section 10, that there has also been a breach of Section 16:
“16 Duty to provide advice and assistance.
(1)It shall be the duty of a public authority to provide advice and assistance, so far as it would be reasonable to expect the authority to do so, to persons who propose to make, or have made, requests for information to it.”
At the very least, all references to the information requested on the Government web site could have been provided, yet appear to have been neglected.

As part of the Request for Review, it is helpfully proposed that, for each and every item of information that is being withheld, you provide both the rationale for withholding that information, and also provide the evidence to support the rationale for withholding the information.

It is not accepted that every item is exempt given that some information has already been released by the Government.

From your refusal, no indication is given as to why each and every item of information is exempt from disclosure, other than a blanket allegation, which has been refuted.

It is therefore proposed that there has been a breach of S 17 ( 1 ) ( c ) :
“17 Refusal of request.
(1)A public authority which, in relation to any request for information, is to any extent relying on a claim that any provision of Part II relating to the duty to confirm or deny is relevant to the request or on a claim that information is exempt information must, within the time for complying with section 1(1), give the applicant a notice which—
(a)states that fact,
(b)specifies the exemption in question, and
(c)states (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemption applies.”

Taking all of the above into consideration there must also be consideration of S77:
“77 Offence of altering etc. records with intent to prevent disclosure.
(1)Where—
(a)a request for information has been made to a public authority, and
(b)under section 1 of this Act or section 7 of the M1Data Protection Act 1998, the applicant would have been entitled (subject to payment of any fee) to communication of any information in accordance with that section,
any person to whom this subsection applies is guilty of an offence if he alters, defaces, blocks, erases, destroys or conceals any record held by the public authority, with the intention of preventing the disclosure by that authority of all, or any part, of the information to the communication of which the applicant would have been entitled.”

There is much information that could have and should have been provided, along with that which is currently being withheld on the alleged exemption of S24 ( 1 ).

This Request for Review can also be used to ask for additional information, as it would be 'helpful to clarify the direction of travel of the processing of the FoI request and therefore be of assistance to the requestee'.

Therefore in this case, as a part of the Review, there is no valid reason why the following information could not be provided by return:
1. An organogram showing the structure of the department down the level of the head of the counter-disinformation department, who has already been identified,
2. The date, with reasons, ( documents ) when the department was created,
3. Who ordered the creation of the department and the authorising minister.
( documents required )

I now refer to FS50178276, endorsed in EA/2009/0111 8 July 2010 :-
“It is not sufficient for the information sought simply to relate to national security; there must be a clear basis for arguing that disclosure would have an adverse effect on national security before the exemption is engaged.”
We must not lose the sense of proportionality - we are dealing in this case with ‘disinformation’, a far cry from terrorist threats.

Given that you have already taken an additional 20 working days to provide the refusal notice, during which time there was extra consideration of the public interest test, there is no reason why the Request for Review can not be completed within, say 14 working days, accompanied by all the original and additional information requested.

Also, because of the citing of S24 in this case, you will already have all the consultation notes from the National Security Liaison Group (NSLG), which is mandatory, along with similar notes from any information sources.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/h...

Yours faithfully,

Mike Robinson

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Dear Mr Robinson,

Thank you for your request for an Internal Review of our response to your FOI Request Ref 0380-18. It has been passed to the relevant department within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to deal with and they will respond to you with the outcome of the review.

We received your request on 26 June 2018 and will aim to respond within 20 working days.

Yours sincerely

Central FOI Unit
Foreign and Commonwealth Office

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Dear Foreign and Commonwealth Office,

Your response to my request for an internal review is now late. Could you please tell me when I can expect your response?

Yours faithfully,

Mike Robinson

Dear Foreign and Commonwealth Office,

Regarding the internal review for the following FOI request:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/h...

This is now 14 working days overdue. I prompted you that it was overdue on 25th July, and you did not respond.

Please let me know your intentions by return. If I have not had a response by the end of the day on Wednesday 15 August, I will be I will be forced to take this to the Information Commissioner.

Yours faithfully,

Mike Robinson

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 

Dear Mr Robinson,

 

I am writing about your request for an Internal Review. I am very sorry
for not being able to meet the deadline for the internal review of our
handling of FOI 0380-18, and our failure to keep you updated about
developments with your case. We have been informed that the original
reviewer has been appointed to a new job for operational reasons and will
not therefore be able to complete the review.  The department responsible
is looking for someone to continue the review and provide a response. We
try hard to ensure that we respond in a prompt and efficient manner, but I
am afraid on this occasion we will need more time. We will keep you up to
date with the progress of the review.

 

Regards

 

Central FOI Unit

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 

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Dear Mr Robinson

 

We apologise for the delay in responding to your request for an internal
review of the above request.  We hope to be able to reply next week.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

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Dear Mr Robinson

Please find attached a response to your request for an Internal Review of our response to FOI Ref 0380-18. I apologise for the delay in responding.

Yours sincerely

FOI Case Manager
Central FOI Unit

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